Does 'The Secret' Work in Hard Times?
Today, with at least that many Americans unemployed, Byrne's ideas aren't so attractive anymore. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which accounts for 75% of all retail sales, Byrne's follow-up book, The Power, has sold fewer than 190,000 copies.In case you're not familiar with the publishing industry, a 99% drop in sales is not the desired business model.
I could have told Byrne, who did no media this time, that this would happen. Due to some fatal miscalculations, my second book also failed to reach as many readers as the first, prompting this question: if a tree falls in the forest and becomes a book that gets no publicity, does it make a sound?
Answer: Not so much.
I've been using The Secret long before I knew it was one. (In 1996, I was a case study for a book called Write it Down, Make it Happen). Indeed, I was once so determinedly positive that the day I sold my graphics business to pursue writing I turned to my partner and announced with absolute certainty that: "A year from now I will have sold my first book." On the anniversary of that date, not only had I sold that book, I was walking onto the lot of Columbia Pictures to discuss the movie adaptation.
Fade to black, happy ending, right?
Answer: See above.
Since then, my resolve has been tested by false-starts, near-misses and a few outright disasters. For a little while -- say, oh, the last three years -- I've felt lost, betrayed, stymied.
Looking back on my disappointments, however, I see they all had one thing in common: fear. While my better nature tried to hold to my vision, some hobgoblin in my brain kept snatching it away. I feared the worst and my worst fears came true. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don't know the degree to which "our thoughts become things" (for instance, blaming the sick and the poor for being that way is just mean) but this I can say with absolute certainty: whenever I have clearly and fearlessly envisioned my goals, it's as if the world arranges itself to accomplish them.
Because I've started writing musicals, I recently went to the annual conference of the National Alliance of Musical Theatre, which I attended as the dramaturg for producer Brisa Trinchero of Make Musicals. The experience proved unexpectedly mystical as well as musical.
I did my due diligence beforehand, but I decided that instead of frantically puppy-dogging around the way I would have in the past, I simply made a list of the people I wanted to meet, then trusted I would see whomever I needed to.
On the top of my list were two smaller NY-based companies specializing in developing new work, Amas Musical Theatre and the New York Theatre Barn.
The following morning, I found myself lined up behind a lovely writer named Sheilah Rae, who instantly treated me like a long-lost friend. I was pleased at the friendly start, but didn't attach any cosmic significance to it. But then I tagged along with Brisa to lunch with another producer and ended up across the table from the artistic director and board president of ... wait for it ... Amas Musical Theatre.
I'm sure skeptics and statisticians could chalk that up to coincidence, but when I got on line after lunch, there I was again behind Sheilah. Given the hundreds of people there, what were the odds? Perhaps we're both the kind of people who intend to line up early but don't because we need to use the john, but as we continued our conversation, I discovered something I hadn't learned that morning. Sheilah's the board president of -- you guessed it -- the New York Theatre Barn.
As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what either company says -- they're mine now.
I have no data to back up my beliefs, but I believe science will eventually prove the chemical basis of serendipity. That eventually we'll learn we emit some kind of radar or pheromone. As Byrne writes:
"Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency."
At best it's pseudo-science, at worst delusional twaddle, but in hard times it sure beats believing the alternative.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.